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HO HO WHO: Girl Ray, the North London indie-pop archivists who spike the C86 formula with touches of cool-breeze ‘70s songcraft and a taste for the lush and sprawling. Their 2017 debut full-length, Earl Gray, was wintry yet also warm, with the odd orchestral flourish and 10-minute multipart digression. Now they’re back with something worth roasting chestnuts to.
SAD SANTA: “(I Wish I Were Giving You a Gift) This Christmas” begins on a somber note. “It was ice cold when you left,” sings a pleading Poppy Hankin, who goes on to detail a somber, solitary Christmas even as the song, come its sideways-crooning chorus, skips into a classic Hollywood dreamscape by way of the Brill Building, with sleigh bells, angel harmonies, and strings that swoon harder than Santa after one too many eggnogs. If this is Girl Ray’s sad Christmas—did I mention there’s a horn section and a kids chorus?—sign me up for one of their blissful ones.
NO SLEIGH BELLS NECESSARY: Girl Ray can challenge the classics—is it an accident the A-side of their Christmas single adds a parenthetical to a Donny Hathaway yuletide gem?—and it can interpret them too. On Side B is a stripped-down take on “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” with just some deadpan vocals, an organ (or maybe melodica), and some ukulele (autoharp)—a ditty for when the fire’s low, the kiddies have all fallen asleep, and it’s time to stuff some stockings.
CHEER FACTOR: 9/10—the highest allowable score on an intentionally downcast 7-inch, yet one that can’t quite resist some resplendent holiday maximalism.https://open.spotify.com/user/h25fle74syvfg1znfvdw4k7rt/playlist/0Kv69fFayzIq2r1raLgJ90